Tentative tech bounce as investors escape bonds

A man wearing a protective mask, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, walks past an electronic board displaying Shanghai Composite index, Nikkei index and Dow Jones Industrial Average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, March 7, 2022. REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon

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SINGAPORE, March 23 (Reuters) – Asian equities hit three week highs on Wednesday as investors fled a meltdown in bond markets and sought refuge in cash, carry trades and beaten-down sectors such as technology, while the Ukraine conflict’s threat to supplies kept oil prices firm.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) rose 1% to its highest since early March, with hefty rises in Hong Kong technology firms leading the way.

In Japan, cars joined in as the Nikkei (.N225) rose 3%.

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European futures were last up 0.8% and FTSE futures up 0.5%, though things were more muted for US futures, which climbed 0.2% after rallying on Tuesday.

Battered e-commerce giant Alibaba (9988.HK), which recently expanded a buyback program, rose 6% and in Tokyo out-of-favor tech investment firm SoftBank Group (9984.T) rose 7%.

“(Stocks) sold off too much and you see a bit of a rally,” said Jun Bei Liu a portfolio manager at Tribeca Investment Partners in Sydney, but she added it had the flavor of hedge fund short covering rather than new money piling in .

“We are facing a lot of interest rate increases, which is going to put a lid on valuation. We just will not see the sort of valuation expansion we saw over the last many years.”

Still, stocks’ resilience has been noteworthy in the face of very heavy dumping of bonds since the US Federal Reserve gave hawkish guidance at its March meeting and chair Jerome Powell sounded even more aggressive in a speech on Monday.

Losses extended in early Asia trade then moderated leaving benchmark 10-year Treasury yields, which rise when prices fall, up 2 basis points (bps) at 2.4009% and having climbed a whopping 58 basis points for the month so far.

Two-year Treasury yields, up 76 bps in March, steadied at 2.1796%.

“The move higher in yields stretching over the past two weeks has been the largest one since the global financial crisis and even then the moves were within a couple of base points of what we are experiencing now,” said NatWest Markets’ rates strategist Jan Nevruzi .

“At some point the market might start pricing in an economic downturn, particularly if the Fed embarks on a series of 50 bp hikes.”


Among the event due later on Wednesday, British inflation data was set to be released at 0700 GMT, while speeches from Powell and Fed officials James Bullard and Mary Daly would also be watched for clues on the rates outlook.

Rising interest rates elsewhere and surging oil prices have sent Japan’s yen into a tailspin by sucking money abroad in search of better yields and to pay up for energy imports. read more

The yen is down 5% on the dollar in March and it made a six-year low of 121.41 in the Asia session.

Higher yields, among major currencies, have been beneficiaries and the Aussie and New Zealand dollars have hit their strongest levels on the dollar since last November.

Both held near those peaks with the Aussie

The euro held at $ 1.1036.

Commodity markets have been kept on edge by anticipated supply disruptions from war in Ukraine and were firm against a lack of tangible progress towards peace.

Oil steadied at lofty heights, with Brent crude futures up 1% at $ 116.67 a barrel and US crude up 1% to $ 110.34.

Grain prices remained supported by supply concerns, especially for delivery later in the year.

“Those gains are a sign that the market is setting itself to be without much Black Sea supply well into season 2022,” said Tobin Gorey, an agriculture commodity strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney.

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Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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